THE NORTH EUROPEAN FOREST THAT STAYED IN THE SOUTH
There is a place in the south so similar to the north that you may feel an impulse to check on your map whether you really are in sunny Andalusia. In the last glaciation, ice coming from the poles pushed the north European forests southwards. Subsequently, when the climate became milder, most of the forests retreated back to their original places. Could it be possible for a northern forest to find its new home in the south so perfect as to stay there forever? In the cool green forest of Las Acebeas, among tall holly and hazel trees, you will discover that such a miracle has occurred.
If you would like to leave the forests behind and broaden your horizons after travelling through the extensive pine forests in the area, go to the peaks of Navalperal, Puntal de la Rayuela or CambrÃ³n to look out over a sea of tree-clad mountains stretching all the way to the horizon at your feet. Alternatively, you can to one of the most frequently visited spots in southern Spain: the spectacular Naciendo del Mundo (â€˜the birth of the worldâ€™) in the Cueva de los Chorros waterfall, in the nearby Los Calares del RÃo Mundo and La Sima Nature Reserve.
The landscape in the northern area of the Nature Reserve is full of variety, however. Here, humans and nature forged an alliance long ago that shows in the harmonious mosaic of forests and olive groves. Thus, you can find gentle olive-clad hills, small towns and traditional hamlets very close to the rugged mountains.
There are two essential information centres you can visit to learn more about the dual nature of this farm-and-forest culture. One is in Siles, where you can find out about the old mountain trades in the El Sequero Visitor Centre. The other is in GÃ©nave, where the Olivar EcolÃ³gico Visitor Centre tells you all about organic olive growing, a field in which this town has been a pioneer.
To complete this gratifying panorama of diversity, just outside the boundary of the Nature Reserve youâ€™ll be surprised to discover open pasture lands and mountains covered in oak groves and Mediterranean shrubs at the far end of Sierra Morena, where large groups of red deer are frequently seen performing their rutting rituals in the autumn.